Archive for ◊ August, 2013 ◊

• Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

I was at a church meeting the other day and an elderly member lamented that he didn’t feel needed anymore. This man used to be the “Go To” Guy for everything – from repairing the broken furnace to reading a Bible passage during the service.

His comment reminded me of the preparations for our last church fair in which we older church ladies were sitting around grousing that we never get the support of the younger members. We felt frustrated as we worked to carry on a fun holiday tradition, without the many hands we needed.

At the last Leadership team meeting, there was brainstorming about who could run the fall Stewardship campaign. Names would be mentioned, but voices would comment, “Oh, she won’t do it” or “He’s too busy.”

There’s flawed thinking at many churches and other non-profit organizations. There’s an assumption that unless people volunteer, they are not interested. Or – there is the tendency to anticipate the answer of a “please help” request before it is even asked.

Often church committees hesitate to ask for help because they are afraid of the answer or they fear being put in an awkward or uncomfortable position. They forget that most people want to feel needed. It is a compliment when someone says: “Can you lend a hand?” “We could use your expertise.” “Might you be available to help out for an hour or so?” And if the answer is “no” that’s fine, at least the request was made.

That older gentleman at the church doesn’t feel needed anymore. His fellow parishioners have made the mistake of discounting him. He may have said “no” a few times in the past, and now he is “off the list.” But in truth, he might like to be asked again. And if this is still not the time for a “yes,” perhaps next time there will be a task that suits his talents and interests.

The church fair ladies complain about lack of support, but they might be surprised if they took the time to make a phone call and sought help from a younger member. Perhaps they would not get the specific help they need – i.e., A yes to “Can you work at the Fair all day?”, but they might get an alternative: “I can work at the Fair for a few hours in the morning.”

There may be a leader for the Stewardship campaign just waiting to hear from someone on Leadership Team. Wrong assumptions means that call is never made.

On the other side of the equation is the awkward feeling of being asked to do something and knowing that the task either does not appeal or you do not have the time. It’s nice to be asked and it’s okay to say “no.” As far as the asker, accept a negative reply graciously.

If help is needed for a church undertaking, don’t discount anyone and don’t be afraid to ask. Is it really so devastating to hear “Sorry, I can’t do it right now”? And if you feel unneeded at your church – step up and say “I’m available.”

Churches need volunteers to survive. “Yes” is a wonderful word. “Maybe next time” also works.

• Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Sometimes in churches, we allow ourselves to live in a “fool’s paradise.” And oddly, we often seem to be able to take up residence in that place for years and even decades at a time. We tell ourselves that if we wait long enough, everything will change – young people will start showing up in droves on Sunday morning, families with young children will fill the sanctuary and even better, those children will be quiet – babies will not cry, older children will not whisper loudly, toddlers will not annoy us with scratchy pencils on the Sunday bulletin or by kicking their legs back and forth in the pew in front of us.

Every church dreams of attracting new members, and most of us talk about how thrilled we would be to have more young families in our congregations, but in many cases, the truth is, that if that reality came to pass, many of our current church members would be truly upset at how that kind of change would alter the dynamics of our staid, traditional, “the way we’ve always done it” life at church.

We all say we want to grow and attract new members, but it is my experience that what most people mean when they say that is that they want more members who are just like them. In truth, the reality of a worship space filled with children and teenagers is actually distasteful to many longtime church members (unless, of course, those children are their own grandchildren!).

When we discuss church growth within our congregations, we need to be mindful of this attitude. Folks sitting in the pews must be prepared to accept the changes that will surely come with renewal and revitalization, or it is useless to even try attracting new people.

Furthermore, potential new members will sense this kind of reticence when they visit your church. A disapproving glance or a long drawn out sigh from a church member sitting nearby will make it quite clear to potential new members that neither they nor their children are TRULY welcome, and they will not return.

Before beginning any “church growth” program, these kinds of issues must be addressed with the current membership.